... a gritty, thrilling reminder that small-town America has an underbelly, too ... Cosby immediately displays a talent for well-tuned action, raising our heart rates and filling our nostrils with odors of gun smoke and burned rubber. But the real draw here is his evocative depiction of rural Virginia and its denizens. Cosby’s voice is distinctive, and he plays a sharp-tongued Virgil as we descend into the Hades of bucolic poverty ... Gross! Sad! And kind of fun ... The milieu is fresh; the setup, more familiar ... Cosby delivers heavy doses of imaginative action and highway high jinks in lieu of any real mystery. But this grim tale finds its saving grace in its refusal to worship its hero.
The most surprising thing about S.A. Cosby's Blacktop Wasteland, which is marketed as a crime novel, is that crime is the least important element in the book ... There are guns here, sure, but the strongest hits come from melancholy and the constant ache for a better life ... Racial tension is at the core of Blacktop Wasteland. Cosby, a Black man from southeastern Virginia, knows racism well ... This knowledge, and the heartfelt way in which Cosby writes about being the other now as well as historically, make Blacktop Wasteland the kind of book that should be part of every conversation about why we need diverse books ... This is a gritty, violent story, which makes it a good crime tale, but what matters most here, what pushes Blacktop Wasteland into the realm of important novels, is the way it uses a fictional story to deliver truths and discuss history.
Author S.A. Cosby quickly establishes Bug’s financial burdens and emotional dilemma in his new novel, Blacktop Wasteland, and never lets up on the gas. The result is a high-octane, white-knuckle thriller that will have readers whipping through the pages at breakneck speed ... Cosby’s tightfisted prose fuels this story with heart-pumping (and often brutal) action that begs to be adapted for the big screen but somehow never loses its compassionate edge ... a welcome return apperance ... one hell of a ride.
Cosby is attuned to working-class life in rural Virginia and the struggles of a business in an area where everyone is one paycheck away from an eviction notice or foreclosure ... Cosby has said the movie Hell or High Water was an inspiration, and it shows. But Red Hill County is more diverse and realistic, as most working-class people in the United States are not white ... Cosby knows his people and I was drawn in deep, distracted from the news of my country in flames and crying for justice by a classic, character-driven heist tale that inhabits that world, but delivers heart-pounding entertainment ... car lovers will relish and those who aren’t fanatics can enjoy just as well ... balances hardboiled and humor perfectly well, with brutal opposition who are just as tough and sharp as his anti-hero, women who are more than décor, and families and friends who are more than hostages. Blacktop Wasteland is an invigorating shot of nitrous oxide to the classic engine of the getaway driver and heist genre, with a skilled, callused hand on the wheel as it smokes the tires and throws the reader into the seat for an emotional thrill ride they won’t soon forget.
... one of the year’s strongest novels. The noir story quickly accelerates and doesn’t lose speed until it careens to its finale as it looks at race, responsibility, parenthood and identity via pin-perfect characters with realistic motives. Cosby invests Blacktop Wasteland with an emotional approach while delivering a solid thriller.
Blacktop Wasteland introduces S.A. Cosby — a new talent who delivers one of the year’s strongest novels ... The noir story quickly accelerates and doesn’t lose speed until it careens to its finale. It’s a looks at race, responsibility, parenthood and identity via pin-perfect characters with realistic motives. Cosby invests Blacktop Wasteland with emotion while delivering a solid thriller ... Cosby smoothly alternates Bug’s domestic life with his criminal side. The economically strapped area of Virginia with its decaying buildings and “desiccated husks” of deserted houses enhances Blacktop Wasteland. The setting becomes a metaphor for Bug’s crumbling life: 'A blacktop wasteland haunted by the phantoms of the past.' Blacktop Wasteland will easily make it to many best-of-the-year lists.
... one of the best books I have read so far in 2020 ... will be the book that gets [Cosby] the notice, attention and readership that he has earned and deserves ... an edgy study in dual natures existing in the same person at the same time ... There is violence here, which is somewhat offset by occasional tenderness and introspection ... What is perhaps most compelling about Blacktop Wasteland is the manner in which Cosby, with great subtlety, whispers to the reader 'What would YOU do?' if faced with the same problems and possessed of the same skills as Montage. The answers are not easy ones. Other questions are left unanswered at the close of the book. It would be grand to see if the characters who make it to the end return to answer them. These folks, not to mention Cosby, are way too interesting to languish in limbo.
Blacktop Wasteland, with very good reason, has attracted quite a bit of buzz over the few months heading into its release. Cosby is an original voice, taking noir tropes and remixing them in exciting ways. He’s going to make his mark. Other crime-fiction writers who are trying to find the balance for their tough-guy characters, take notes.
Blacktop Wasteland captured my attention from the beginning. Cosby writes action as well as anyone. Bug is a engaging protagonist – funny and likeable but clear-headed and impressively good at his work. His conflicts give him a depth that others lack. Beneath its sleek surface Cosby has written a rural noir novel that is also timely and subversive in its portrayal of racism and thew skewering of the American Dream. Believe the hype.
S.A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland is a fast-paced story that throws us against the seat and makes us grab for the 'oh-shit-bar' from start to finish. It would be easy to dismiss this as a summer read, a fun heist story with exciting chase scenes that compels the reader to keep turning those pages with one satisfying twist after another. That would be a mistake. While Blacktop Wasteland is all of that, it is also an indictment against classism and racism written with a subtlety that eschews preachiness. Instead, Cosby gives us poverty-stricken Virginia with its closed strip malls, trailer parks, and white supremacists drawn with a voice so southern you can hear the twang as you read.
Heist-novel fans are all too familiar with the one-last-job premise, but Cosby trumps our expectations with a neat twist ... Cosby never misses a note in this high-energy read, from Bug’s under-the-hood wizardry to the actual driving to the sensitive character building, which gives depth to the entire cast, including Bug’s hapless yet treacherous associates. A superb work of crime fiction, uncompromisingly noir but deeply human, too...
The gritty, brutal narrative is complemented by the author’s sublime use of sensory description and regional imagery. In addition, the epic, jaw-dropping chase sequences that figure prominently are reason alone to read this pedal-to-the-metal but profoundly sorrowful novel. Cosby is definitely a writer to watch.
Beauregard’s anguish makes him a sympathetic lead. But the supporting cast isn't nearly as compelling, and some turns of phrase...are as painful as anything anybody suffers in the bloody climax ... The at-times action-packed ride can’t hide the fact that this one doesn't fire on all cylinders.